Opponents but never enemies

During the school dances, the slow ballads would arrive and wooohooo! You got to slow dance… real close. The sisters would literally come over with a 12-inch ruler, but it between you and your dance partner, gently smile, and say “Leave room for the Holy Spirit.”

That is good advice in life, especially these days when something wicked this way comes. It is called anger and we Christians are specifically warned about it in the first reading from today’s Mass: “everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the [anger] of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).

As a nation, as a people we need to remember something wicked this way comes fueled by the elections of 2020. Anger will only grow more intense as we approach and enter into the depths of the election year. People seethe at the Trump administration. People seethe at the Obama administration. People long for a gentler, more civil time when political anger was for show and for votes

They hold their anger as righteous and they think, “My anger is not like the anger of those others guys. My anger is justified, it is righteous!”

Tell yourself that often enough and a deadly pattern, a sinful habit quite easily forms

Republican Bob Michel, the longest serving House Minority Leader. For all of Michel’s legislative career he was in the minority. His counterpart from Illinois was Democrat Dan Rostenkowski. They carpooled to work together. They competed by day, but they socialized by night. Not surprising, when we share a common life, you break bread, knock back a few, and have your opponent as a bridge partner, you learn something about them that makes it easier to work together. They were opponents, never enemies, never cross swords in anger.

Speaking to the New York Times in 2008 about two Democratic Speakers, Michel said, “With Tom [Foley] and Tip [O’Neill], [W]e got along… Sure, we had our doggone partisan differences; I expect that… But when push came to shove, or during a real nitty-gritty situation, why, I always knew that I could talk with either one of them on a simply man-to-man basis and no holds barred.

I like to think that carpool, meals, a drink or two and an evening of bridge left enough room for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives.

Those are perhaps an antidote to anger while remaining in honestly held opposition.


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